Understanding your rights and responsibilities as a tenant
As a tenant, you are expected to occupy the property in a ‘tenant-like’ manner. It’s a slightly odd phrase but essentially means that you should do the things a normal householder should do. This would include such things as:
- Changing lightbulbs
- Changing or testing batteries in smoke or carbon monoxide detectors
- Not putting things down sinks that might lead them to block
- Keeping the garden tidy if you have one
- Regularly cleaning the property
- Not allowing baths and showers to overflow
Managing your tenancy
If maintenance issues arise it’s the tenant’s responsibility to let the landlord know so that they can arrange a repair and take any reasonable action to limit any damage as a result. For example, if there is a burst pipe, you should try and switch off the water to reduce any damage.
The tenancy agreement will also require you to pay your rent on time, in the way specified and without any deductions. If you have agreed to take a cost from the rent with your landlord and it is your agent who collects rent, you should make sure that you or the landlord confirm the arrangement with them so that they do not think that you have short paid.
If you receive a notice at the property that is for the owner (for example a consultation notice for a planning application for a nearby property), though it is not your legal responsibility to forward this on we would strongly recommend you do so in case they wish to dispute the application (please note that you too have the ability to dispute a planning application if you see fit). We would also recommend that you check the details of your tenancy agreement regarding what to do with any other mail you may receive for your landlord, as some agreements may require you to forward items on.
During the tenancy and subject to reasonable notice you should allow the landlord, his workmen or his agents to inspect the property. Reasonable notice is normally considered to be 24 hours.
There may come a time in your tenancy when you require an emergency repair. This could include having a problem with the plumbing or heating. Take a look at our section on reporting problems and getting things fixed for more information on emergency repairs.
Normal household chores such as changing light bulbs are the responsibility of the tenant. Dealing with pests is also often the responsibility of the tenant, but it’s worth checking the tenancy agreement as it can vary. If the property is a block of flats pest control is often done by the building managers to prevent the pests moving from flat to flat.
The landlord has a contractual responsibility to maintain the property in good working order and therefore most maintenance costs would be covered by them. If, however, they are repairing damage that you have caused then you would reasonably be expected to cover the cost. This would also apply to cost of any appointments they had made with you for a contractor to attend which you may not have kept.
There is a line between good maintenance and property upgrades and the landlord may decline the latter if the property is still safe to occupy.
As part of your tenancy agreement, you will be entitled to ‘quiet enjoyment’ and you should not expect unannounced visits and harassment from your landlord. Equally, your neighbours should expect the same and so you should not do anything to unnecessarily disturb them.